The Art & Humor of
A. Stanley Johnson of Waupun, Wisconsin

presented by The History Center on Main Street,
Mansfield, PA
How We Do Things, Second Ed.
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The Art & Humor of     Stanley Johnson of Waupun, Wisconsin

The Fish of 1909

Local Test Market - A Fishy Start to Something Big

The titles of Johnson's earliest exaggeration cards were copyright registered in October 1909. They were distributed in the towns around Waupun as a test market. Johnson's first set of cards included both exaggerated fish as well as farm crops. Most of these images were later printed and distributed nationally in the "How We Do Things" series. They were reprinted countless times for countless towns for many years.

The farm products were initially presented with the logo of "The Crop of 1909" which included a time limitation, so most were converted to the more flexible logo of "How We Do Things" and marketed long-term. Because most of the earliest fish cards included recognizable buildings in and near Waupun, they were not translatable to other towns and did not become part of Johnson's long term inventory of scenes.

While many of these designs are very common, the original 1909 Crop labeled examples are very rare. All of the examples shown here are from the collection of Morgan Williams who acquired them in the 1980s. I have never seen any one of these available in the sixteen or so years I have been collecting. See the Morgan Williams article on the RPPC Cards for more detail

Exaggeration postcards are not unique to A. Stanley Johnson, but when he decided to try his hand in the exaggeration market, or as it was called then, the Novelty Freak genre, he started with these 1909 titles and marketed them in Waupun and other towns in his county. Apparently they were immediately successful because before the year was out, he had expanded his distribution network. It would be an interesting study to examine when the earliest postmarks appeared outside of his immediate area, state by state

The early fish cards were real photo postcards. (RPPC) They were printed as photos on photographic paper specifically designed for postcards. Their clarity is much cleaner than later printed cards even though it is the same image. The titles were copyright registered 26 and 30 October 1909. Unlike the later “How We Do Things” series, which were stamped usually in red print, these were hand labeled with white lettering. Most of these titles, excluding the fish with buildings, remained prominent in Johnson’s inventory and were produced for many years to come in printed, rather than RPPC form.

The First of Many, copyright 26 October 1909: Carp Caught in Beaver Pond Beaver Dam Wis
Rock River Carp Caught in Horicon Marsh, Horicon Wis. Postmarked 09 Nov. 1909, Horicon, Wis.
While this scene is posed in front of a different building than the one above, it is the same fish pasted into the image. Johnson often reused his exaggeration clippings. In this one he has pasted two upright bars and part of the wheel over the fish demonstrating an increase in his skill and confidence.
rockriver2 rockriver3
Rock River Carp Caught in Horicon Marsh, Burnett, Wis.
Postmarked Burnett, Wis, Dec 6, 1909
Rock River Carp Caught in Horicon Marsh, Waupun, Wis.
Postmarked Waupun, Wis, Feb 3, 1910
Catfish Caught in River Ripon, Wis Copyright 23 Nov. 1909
Postmarked Ripon, Wis, Dec 20, 1909  (very early mailing for this card after copyright date)
This is a beautiful card with the brick street paving and the buildings in the background, but that is why it could not be sold nationally. It did not have universal appeal. It did not look authentic for any other town.
The same fish image is used in the card just below this one. This card, with both a person and a wheel, has more intricate pasting over the fish image than the one below.
Catfish Caught in Beaver Pond, Beaver Dam, Wis.
Once again we see a beautiful building in the background reducing its marketability and a recycled catfish image. As you study the Johnson cards, you may start recognizing some of the familiar faces. Some of Johnson's family and friends posed for him through many scenes.
Rock River Catfish Caught in Horicon Marsh, Waupun, Wis. not postally used.
The Morgan collection includes another example for Horicon. Wis.
Yes, it's the same catfish as the two above. He got his mileage out of this one.
This RPPC version of "The Buck Fever" copyright 10 FEB 1910, was postmarked April 11, 1910 - Probably one of the first ones mailed. This example shows just the hint of a shadow almost like a misaligned double print. There were later three companion rabbit hunting scenes to go with this one copyrighted in March of the same year. Except for the October and November 1909 and the February 1910 copyrights, Johnson used only the year and not the month.
"How Is This" illustrates a man pulling in a fish bigger than himself, and a fierce one at that. Postmarked Waupun, Wis, July 5, 1910 . The detail of the fish and the water surrounding it is beautifully done by Johnson. Detail below.
"Two Hours Catch" Postmarked Feb 8, 1911. The Waupun Wis designation is hand lettered in white. This is an early appearance of "the man with the pipe" who is a recurring character in Johnson's scenes.